Introducing the ultimate winter delicacy ~ Gajar ka halwa! This traditional Indian sweet made with farm-fresh carrots, sugar, and dry nuts offers a rich, incredibly creamy, and melt-in-your-mouth taste that kids and adults love alike!
The best part, this halwa is easy to make, feeds a large gathering, and is the perfect treat for cold winter nights.
I love Gajar ka halwa. (But, who doesn’t?) Among all the varieties of halwa, Moong dal halwa, Wheat halwa or Kada Prasad, or sooji halwa, Gajar ka halwa or Gajrela is probably the most loved type of halwa as it celebrates the season’s sweetest carrots and its natural flavors!
Gajrela is a part of almost every celebration in India, including weddings, potlucks, family gatherings, or festivals.
Gajar ka halwa always takes me down memory lane and brings back many happy remembrances.
My mom always made this halwa on a cold Saturday morning and, her kitchen would fill up with the aroma of sauteed carrots, ghee, and a hint of cardamom, making every taste bud in our mouth water and crave for some right away.
She served it warm with a generous sprinkle of dry nuts, and we would relish every bite of it.
What is Gajar ka halwa?
In this term, Gajar ka halwa, Gajar translates to carrots, and halwa means a sweet pudding made with ghee, milk, and sugar.
Collectively, it signifies a sweet carrot pudding made with ghee, milk, and sugar.
Traditionally, Gajar ka halwa is prepared by simmering milk and shredded carrots together to a point where milk is 80% reduced. Then ghee, mawa, sugar, and dry nuts are generously added.
Though this simmering process may require a lot of your time but trust me, patience is the key to a perfect gajar ka halwa. All this slow-cooking gives gajar ka halwa a big flavor boost, and it tastes incredible!
Ingredients and Substitutes for Gajrela
No fancy ingredients are required. The authentic Gajar ka halwa recipe doesn’t require too many elements, just the basics from your fridge and pantry, and they are:
» Ghee – always use ghee for cooking halwa. Ghee adds its own deliciousness and richness to gajar halwa; therefore, do not cut back on it.
» Cream – It lends a creamy and melt-in-mouth texture. If you don’t want to add cream, you can substitute cream for full-fat milk. However, you can use low-fat milk, but the results will differ.
» Sugar – I have used granulated sugar to sweeten the halwa. You can substitute sugar with jaggery, cane sugar, or brown sugar, too; though, halwa’s color will deepen because of dark-colored sweeteners.
» Milk Powder – For a grainy texture and rich taste, I have added milk powder in the end; however, you can use 3/4 cup of mawa as a substitute.
» Cardamom Powder – This is my favorite flavoring agent because it lends an excellent essence to Gajrela. You can even use a few drops of rose water or a pinch of saffron to flavor Gajrela.
» Dry nuts – Roasted dry nuts add a lovely crunch to Gajar halwa. I have used a combination of almonds, cashews, and raisins, but if you are allergic to nuts, you can either omit the nuts or just add raisins.
» Carrots – This is our star ingredient, and I have used fresh and tender orange carrots to make gajar halwa because that is what is available in my area.
Best carrots for halwa
It’s Red carrots!
In winters, Delhi markets are gleaming with red/black carrots, and delicacies such as gajar ka halwa, gajar shalgam achar, and Kanji are usually prepared at this time when red carrots are in season.
Red carrots are extremely juicy, crunchy, highly nutritious, and sweeter than orange ones.
Therefore, I would suggest hitting your local wholefood stores or farmer’s market, and if luck is on your side, you may find red carrots. Though a small modification will be required, red carrots are crunchier than orange ones, so you have to boil them longer in milk/cream until soft.
Since red carrots are not available in my area, I have prepared Gajrela with orange carrots.
Recipe tips for best Gajar ka Halwa
» Always select fresh, tender carrots for halwa.
» This gajar halwa doesn’t take that long to cook; therefore, grate the carrots to medium thickness because if grated too thin, halwa will become mushy.
» You can use a food processor attachment or a hand grater to grate the carrots. If using a hand grater, use the coarse side of the grater to grate the carrots.
» I prefer to cook my carrots in ghee for a minute before adding cream to them. Ghee provides the sweetest and nuttiest taste to the halwa and helps bring out the unique flavors.
» After the cream is added, keep stirring Gajar halwa at regular intervals to avoid burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
» Adaptable – Gajar ka halwa is a very forgiving recipe. Not in a mood to add cream? No worries, add milk. Likewise, if you are allergic to nuts, you can omit the nuts and add raisins to the halwa.
» Do not add sugar up until all the cream has concentrated. Adding the sugar too soon will stop carrots’ cooking process; therefore, add sugar once the carrots are tender and soft and all the liquid has evaporated.
» If you do not want to add milk powder to Gajrela, then double the quantity of cream in the recipe and cook until all the liquid has concentrated.
» You can add fresh malai to the cooking halwa for a much richer taste.
» Perfect for large gatherings – This recipe as written feeds 4. So if you are looking to feed a crowd, double the ingredients, and you are all set. Just a note, cooking time will vary if the recipe is scaled.
How to make Gajar ka halwa?
Prepare carrots – Rinse carrots thoroughly under tap, gently rub the carrots’ surface with your hands to get rid of all the impurities and dirt. Now, use a hand grater or food processor to peel and grate the carrots.
Toast the dry nuts – Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a pan. Add almonds, cashews, and raisins to it. Fry the nuts until they are golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
Cook Gajar – Heat ¼ cup of ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the grated carrots to the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Sauté the carrots for a minute. Now, add cream to the pan. Mix until everything is well blended. Lower the heat to the medium setting and cook the carrots.
Keep Stirring – The key to a successful gajar ka halwa is constant stirring. After the cream is added to the carrots, do not leave the halwa unattended. Keep stirring halwa over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed and the carrots, when pressed in between fingers, become mushy. This process will take appx. 10-12 minutes.
Once carrots are soft, add sugar and cardamom powder to the carrots. Mix until everything is well blended.
Add Milk powder – After the sugar is added, the halwa will become moist again. Continue to cook the halwa over medium flame until all the moisture has evaporated and ghee starts to ooze out from around the corners.
This process will take somewhere between 10-15 minutes.
Once all the liquid has evaporated, stir in milk powder. Mix until well blended. Keep stirring to avoid lump formation.
Serve warm- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee to the halwa and cook it for another 1-2 minutes. Take it off the flame, garnish with roasted dry nuts and serve warm.
How to Store Gajrela?
Store the cooled gajar ka halwa in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will stay well for 2-3 weeks. When ready to serve, remove the desired quantity into a separate bowl and microwave it for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
You can reheat the halwa on a cooktop, too, in a pan.
Can I freeze gajar ka Halwa?
Absolutely! This gajar halwa freezes beautifully for up to 2-3 months. I would recommend storing it in small portions in an airtight container and freeze. This way, you don’t have to thaw the whole batch. Simply remove a batch and thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.
When ready to serve, reheat the halwa in a microwavable bowl or over the stovetop.
Let Me Know What You Think!
This is the most healthy and nutritious dessert during the winters because all that ghee, carrots, and dry nuts that go into this recipe will keep your body warm and fuel you up with the right nutrition. Do give it a try, and you will love it because this Gajrela recipe delivers nothing but deliciousness in every bite.
Should you make this Gajar ka halwa, please let me know your thoughts by sharing your comment below.
And don’t forget to share it with your family and friends.
Craving for more, be sure to check these out:
|This recipe post has been updated from the archives, first published on January 25, 2015|
Gajar ka Halwa
- 4 tablespoons Chopped nuts (Almonds, Cashews, and Raisins)
- 1 tablespoon Ghee
- Trim the top part of the carrots.
- Rinse carrots thoroughly under tap, gently rub the carrots' surface with your hands to get rid of all the impurities and dirt. After rinsing, use a kitchen towel and pat them dry.
- Peel the carrots. Rinse them again.
- Now, use a hand grater or food processor to grate the carrots.
TOAST THE DRY NUTS
- Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a pan. Add almonds, cashews, and raisins to it. Fry the nuts until they are golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat ghee, add the grated carrots to the pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. Sauté the carrots for a minute.
- Now, add cream to the pan. Mix until everything is well blended. Lower the heat to the medium setting and cook the carrots.
- The key to a successful gajar ka halwa is constant stirring. After the cream is added to the carrots, do not leave the halwa unattended. Keep stirring halwa over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed and the carrots, when pressed in between fingers, become mushy. This process will take appx. 10-12 minutes.
- Once carrots are soft, add sugar and cardamom powder to the carrots.
- Mix until everything is well blended.
- After the sugar is added, the halwa will become moist again. Continue to cook the halwa over medium flame until all the moisture has evaporated and ghee starts to ooze out from around the corners.
- This process will take somewhere between 10-15 minutes.
- Once all the liquid has evaporated, stir in milk powder. Mix until well blended. Keep stirring to avoid lump formation.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee to the halwa and cook it for another 1-2 minutes.
- Take it off the flame, garnish with roasted dry nuts and serve warm.